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What started as a protest against police brutality involving African-Americans, has taken on an entirely new life following Donald Trumps comments last Friday

KOIN NEWS FILE PHOTO - NFL players protesting President Trumps' comments before a game last weekend.Equality. Discrimination. Hatred. Patiriotism. And "S.O.B." These words and phrases hijacked my sports weekend — and for once, I'm fine with it.

I hadn't planned on writing this column. I saw some great things during my time on the sidelines last week and had a fairly good piece already half-written prior to President Trump's Alabama rally igniting a firestorm of activity on radio and TV airwaves, at coffee and barber shops, stadiums — and in some cases locker rooms — nationwide. What was once a crusade by a middle-tier NFL quarterback championing a cause on behalf of minorities (high profile police shootings) has now become a standoff between ideological opposites standing their ground.

I'm already on record pronouncing my disdain for political statements during the playing of our national anthem. I applaud anyone willing to take a stand for something they believe in and stand firmly behind that same person's right to do so — peacefully. But at the same time, right or wrong, I'm uncomfortable with drawing attention to a political issue at the very moment in time dedicated solely to how we as a country came to be.

That said, this is different.

Some will tell you there's no place for political agendas in the world of sport, and in many cases I, too, get my feathers in a bunch when individuals' trivial causes fog up my entertainment window. But this has become far too big to treat with the same level of attention as pay-for-play college athletics, trade agreements or any other low-level gripe an athlete, entertainer or "average Joe" might choose to shine a light on. This is challenging the civility of the present and future our past was supposed to have solved, and to sit quietly in the midst of such a monumental societal divide in name of sport would be disrespectful to the enormity of the problem plaguing us today.

Regardless of where you stand on the topics fueling this debate, I challenge you to watch and listen to interviews with some of the NFL players in the wake of Sunday's games and to feel their pain. The hurt resulting from the comments of our Commander in Chief showed plainly on their faces — sadness for a world they as people of color, and ultimately their kids, do and will live in. This wasn't fake outrage or media-driven drivel with TV or radio ratings in mind, but articulate communication of heartbreak that should have been buried with the abolition of segregated schools, words like "negro" and the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

I'm white. I can't relate. But I have eyes and ears, and what I see and hear is pain. I can't just sweep that under the rug.

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